Valley vistas in paint and film Two Amherst exhibits showcase light and color
Two paintings from the "Summer" series by Evelyn Pye hang at Gallery A3 in Amherst. Purchase photo reprints »
This painting is from Evelyn Pye's "Matisse's Windows" series, which consists of miniature canvases. Purchase photo reprints »
Paul Hetzel's ghostly, black-and-white photos of bare trees draped in fog are part of the exhibit by the Pioneer Valley Photographic Society on view at the Amherst Town Hall. Purchase photo reprints »
A photograph by Tom Wyatt, a member of the Pioneer Valley Photographic Society. Purchase photo reprints »
For the title of her series "The Winter Sun Came In To Warm Itself by the Fire, Evelyn Pye paraphrased Proust. “I love how Proust in all his writing made the inanimate world animate,” Pye writes in an artist's statement. Purchase photo reprints »
In downtown Amherst, it’s just a few minutes walk between Town Hall and Gallery A3 — and this month is a particularly good time to visit both, as a photo exhibit in Town Hall and a collection of paintings at Gallery A3 take a broad and intimate look at life in the Valley.
‘Where We Live’
Many members of the Pioneer Valley Photographic Artists (PVPA) have ranged across the country and overseas to capture images, from grand landscapes to snapshots of urban life. But for the current group show on display at Amherst Town Hall, the photographers have focused their lenses on the varied vistas of the Valley.
“Where We Live,” which runs through Nov. 29, presents a wide range of work — from color to black and white, from traditional print format to digitally altered photos, and from traditional landscapes to details, like wildlife, within them. Some photos are of specific Valley locales, while others are unnamed but still evoke the region’s tableau of forest, field, water and hills.
The exhibit is arranged on three floors of the Town Hall, and the ground floor photos are mostly of man-made environments. From a gritty black-and-white image of the East Deerfield railyards that looks as though it could have been taken 50 years ago, to a shot of an ancient gravestone in a Wendell cemetery, the photos are devoid of human figures but show our impact on the landscape.
Perhaps the most striking photo is “Double Yellow Line” by Len Seeve, who depicts an undulating two-lane road at dusk or daybreak, hemmed in by forest and a bit of fog. The woods on either side of the road are shadowed and subdued, individual trees lost in the gloom, making the road’s dividing line gleam with what seems an unnatural light; the road itself seems broken into unconnected fragments. It’s a brooding but arresting image.
On the second floor, Les Campbell and Kevin Kopchynski approach a well-know Valley landmark — the Quabbin Reservoir — from very different perspectives. Campbell, who’s well-known for his landscapes, captures the reservoir as the sky begins to fill with summer storm clouds; the picture is awash in rich color, framed at the bottom by a small row of trees as it looks out to the water, where a couple of small green islands can be seen along with the more distant shoreline.
Kopchynski, by contrast, photographs the Quabbin at dusk, and his image evokes a watercolor painting. It’s mostly dark blue, grey, and light pink, with the murky light leaving impressions rather than details. The wooded shore is made up of low ridges of dark green; only slight irregularities atop those ridges give any indication of a treeline. A faint bit of daylight lingers in the otherwise darkening sky, where clouds hover just over the trees.
John Grimaldi zeroes in on a small Ashfield parcel that’s probably less well-known. Normally mild-mannered Chapel Brook at one point runs down a series of cascading ledges that at times of heavy rain or snowmelt can become a substantial waterfall. Grimaldi uses a long exposure to capture the falls at such a moment, creating a solid wall of white within a thick forest that at first glance looks like ice.
Other landscapes are unnamed but evocative of the Valley and New England. Gail Platz’s “Barn in Autumn” shows a large, weathered barn that in turn is partly obscured — almost dwarfed, in fact — by a huge maple tree, its leaves shimmering with autumn reds and oranges. Bernie Kubiak and Paul Hetzel offer ghostly black-and-white photos of bare trees draped in fog; in Kubiak’s “Flight,” what appears to be a hawk or other raptor flies above a dark forest, its wingspan not much more than a silhouette.
“Where We Live” also has numerous photos that celebrate nature’s diversity in detail, from ferns to leaves to insects and birds. “Up Close and Personal” by Alan Hurwitz depicts a bee at perhaps 50 times its normal size as it sits atop a flower. And John Van de Graff finds humor in nature: His “Poised to Pounce” is a close-up of a green heron, which is balancing on one leg on a piece of driftwood as it beadily eyes some little delicacy outside the frame.
Evelyn Pye at Gallery A3
Walking into Gallery A3 this month is like walking into a kitchen or sitting room awash in sunlight and greenery. Northampton artist Evelyn Pye presents a series of oil paintings that are in part inspired by a line from Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past,” in which the French novelist wrote “... where the sun, a wintry sun still, had crept in to warm itself by the fire.”
Pye does not use individual titles for her work. Instead, she paraphrases Proust for part of her show, calling the largest collection of her current paintings “The Winter Sun Came in to Warm Itself by the Fire.” This ensemble includes multiple studies, in different scales, of indoor plants, done with layered brushstrokes and lush colors; they seem to glow beneath a canopy of sunlight from the windows just beyond. The effect is almost like walking through a greenhouse.
In a few of the paintings, a woman, done in broad strokes with minimal details, sits amidst the flora. In her artist’s statement, Pye says the work commemorates the last year-and-a-half of her mother’s life, when she came to live with Pye in Northampton.
“I love how Proust in all his writing made the inanimate world animate,” Pye writes. “For me that is one of his greatest gifts to us. I wanted to create a sense of my mother surrounded by and happily almost swallowed up by the world (of gardening) that she had created. ... Proust understood that the artist’s goal is to make something human in the midst of the immensity of nature.”
Pye’s show also offers some impressionistic views of her Northampton home and a pond just outside it; in one, a grassy path winds through woods, a gentle light illuminating the scene and beckoning the viewer forward. Another group of paintings, collectively titled “Summer,” evokes that season’s easy rhythms, with images of bicycles leaning against a wall, bright skies above a small group of cottages, and people sitting at a cafe table; Pye says these works are from Provincetown and Truro.
To add depth to her paintings, Pye has mounted them on box frames; the size of her work varies, with two large abstract paintings measuring about 4 feet by 8 feet whereas a six-painting study called “Matisse’s Windows” consists of miniature canvases of approximately 8 inches by 8 inches.
The latter works, inspired by paintings Matisse did between 1916 and 1922, depict views from inside and outside a window or window frame. In one, what can be seen through a window extends to a woman sitting beneath an umbrella on a terrace, the sea just beyond her. In another, the painting is divided between a view of the ocean on the right and of an interior wall of a house on the left.
“I have always been one to look at Matisse and think about his use of color, and I learned even more about the intelligence and power of his compositions doing this work,” Pye says.
Steve Pfarrer can be reached at email@example.com.
“Where We Live” by the Pioneer Valley Photographers Association is on view through Nov. 28 at the Amherst Town Hall, 4 Boltwood Avenue. Hours are Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Evelyn Pye’s paintings in Galley A3, 28 Amity St., Amherst, are on view through Nov. 2. Hours are Thursdays through Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m. Additional paintings from the exhibit can by seen in the Amherst Cinema lobby and at the Amherst GoBerry, next door to the gallery. www.gallerya3.com